Cool off with a tall glass of sweet, tangy, and refreshing tejuino. This fermented corn drink has been around for centuries, and you'll be happy to know it's extremely easy to make at home!
Corn-based recipes are extremely popular in Mexican cuisine. So, it's no surprise a fermented drink recipe has been part of this culture for thousands of years.
This healthy beverage is minimally processed and contains bacteria that are beneficial for our digestion. Are you convinced yet?
What is tejuino?
Tejuino is a cold drink made from fermented corn, unrefined cane sugar (piloncillo), lime juice, and salt.
It's popular in states like Colima, Jalisco, and Nayarit, but it's enjoyed all throughout the country in subtly different ways. In Guadalajara (the capital of Jalisco), it's common to see tejuino drinks topped with handmade lime sorbet (nieve de limón).
This creamy kombucha-like recipe is sold in plastic cups or bags secured around straws from street stall vendors (tejuineros).
The flavor profile is quite remarkable — sour, tart, a little sweet, salty, and full of rich history.
You really need to try it out for yourself.
Fun fact: there are quite a few other corn-based drinks such as atole (warm breakfast drink), pozol (corn drink mixed with cacao), or tejate (toasted corn mixed with cacao and mamey).
It's a really unique experience to be able to make and taste these historical drinks. If you're a Mexican food lover, you owe it to yourself to try a batch!
As with many Mexican recipes, it's hard to pinpoint the creation story of tejuino. But, let's work through this together.
Most historians trace this fermented corn drink back thousands of years to the Nahua people, who were indigenous to Northwest and Central Mexico.
The name tejuino comes from the Nahuatl word "tecuin," which loosely translates to "to beat" or "to beat the heart." This is likely because fermented foods (alcohol) have an effect on heart rate.
Many believe tejuino was used as a ceremonial drink or a "drink of the gods" as it's sometimes referred to. Indigenous people still use this drink in ceremonies and celebrations to this day.
With such a rich and interesting history, we feel honored to be able to try a recipe passed down thousands of years. And you can too!
Is fermentation healthy?
You've most likely heard much about kombucha and how healthy it is for you, but maybe you're not sure why?
Tejuino (like kombucha) goes through a fermentation process, which means microorganisms (like yeast and bacteria) turn carbs (like sugar and starch) into acid or alcohol. Pretty amazing, right?
This process acts as a natural preservative and promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria known as probiotics.
Probiotics have been shown to have many health benefits like improving digestion, boosting the immune system, and lowering the risk of heart disease.
Once you reconstitute your tejuino recipe (see storage notes), it's best served over crushed ice so the beverage thins out and becomes cold and refreshing.
Make sure you add in more lime juice and a pinch of salt to your cup. And if you're feeling extra fancy (like us), top it with a scoop of lime sorbet (nieve de limón).
Whichever way you end up serving it, this probiotic drink is traditionally vegan and gluten-free.
🍲 Key ingredients
For a complete ingredient list and step-by-step guide, scroll down to our recipe card.
What it is: masa harina is a crucial ingredient in Mexican cooking, but shouldn't be confused with regular corn flour. Masa harina is made of nixtamalized corn, which is corn that has been soaked in an alkaline solution. Once the corn is cooked, it can be dried and turned into flour for recipes like tortillas, sopes, and empanadas.
Taste: masa gives off sweet, corn-flavored notes and makes up the bulk of Mexican cooking. When the masa in this recipe is fermented, it provides a slight sourness and carbonation to the drink.
Health: we love that most people are able to consume masa without issue because of its natural gluten-free properties. As a bonus, masa harina has a higher magnesium and fiber content than what is found in regular wheat flour.
Where to buy: you can find masa harina at most large-chain grocery stores in specialty aisles. If you have a Mexican market where you live, they'll be certain to carry it. But if you can't it anywhere and love cooking Mexican food, we recommend buying masa harina online for a guaranteed supply.
What it is: also known as panela, this Mexican staple is the rawest form of cane sugar. Cane juice is boiled then poured into cone-shaped molds (pilon means cone in Spanish). Once it hardens, it is ready to be used in cooking!
Taste: with rich notes of caramel, molasses, and smoke, piloncillo gives this tejuino recipe a depth and complexity that simply cannot be achieved from regular sugar.
Health: we love cooking with piloncillo because it undergoes minimal processing and has no added chemicals or colors. It also contains a whole host of vitamins and minerals that are often lost in processed sugar.
Where to buy: most supermarkets carry piloncillo (or panela). If you're not able to find any, don't forget to check the international aisles. If you're still having no luck, you can always purchase piloncillo online.
Taste: to tame the sweetness of piloncillo, lime is a crucial ingredient as it adds tangy, zesty, and fruity notes. Not only is it mixed into the tejuino drink concentrate, but each individual cup is served with more fresh lime.
Health: because limes are full of vitamin C, they help keep your skin looking younger. You can thank us later for telling you to enjoy a second cup of tejuino!
Taste: it wouldn't be a proper tejuino recipe without a healthy dose of salty deliciousness. Salt enriches the other flavors in tejuino, and it's a signature flavor of this tasty drink.
Health: many people demonize salt, but unless you have a heart condition or other medical condition that requires salt restriction, this mineral plays an important role in the body. It's necessary to help your heart pump, maintain your blood pressure, and help your muscles flex.
If you have questions about this tejuino recipe, don't forget to check out our FAQ section at the bottom of this post.
Step 1: make the masa by whisking the salt and masa harina together, then add in the warm water while kneading it to form a dough ball. Let the dough rest while you prepare the syrup.
Step 2: in a large saucepan, bring the piloncillo cones and 4 cups of water to a simmer for about 6-7 minutes, or until the sugar has dissolved. Turn the heat down to low.
Step 3: back to the masa. Add ½ the masa to a blender with 1 cup of water. Mix until smooth. Transfer to the pot of piloncillo syrup while stirring, and repeat the same process with the second portion of masa.
Step 4: heat the mixture over medium for 10-15 minutes, or until thickened. Remove the pot from the stove and let it cool for about 5 minutes before squeezing in the juice of 2 limes.
Step 5: stir the mixture well, then cover the pot with a cheesecloth or a breathable tea towel. Note: if you have a large glass or clay pot, use this. Keep the mixture in a dry, clean area for up to 2-4 days to ferment.
Step 6: when it is done fermenting, add the tejuino drink concentrate to a blender with a little water to smooth it out again. Add it back to a pot or pitcher that is ⅔ full of ice and stir.
Step 7: fill each cup with crushed ice, the juice of ½ a lime, a pinch of salt, and the rest with your tejuino mix. Use a shaker cup to combine or pour back and forth between 2 cups. Optional: top with a scoop of lime sorbet. Happy drinking!
Tejuino is a drink you're going to want to make often. Just don't forget these steps to keep it fresh.
Once you've waited 2-4 days for the fermentation process, your tejuino recipe will be thick and coagulated. This is normal, but now you should reconstitute the mixture with water.
The best way to do this is by blending the tejuino mixture with a small amount of water until smooth. We generally fill our blender with tejuino, then mix it with about ½ cup of water per batch.
After your tejuino is reconstituted, it will last in the fridge for 2-3 days. We always recommend storing it in glass containers to preserve the flavors.
💭 Pro tips
Time to share our tips and tricks we learned while experimenting with this tejuino recipe for you:
- Blend your masa. To achieve the smoothest texture, blend your masa with water rather than manually whisking it.
- Stir the mixture frequently. To avoid burning and sticking, make sure you stir your mixture frequently.
- Squeeze in the limes after cooking. if you add in lime juice too early, the flavor can quickly turn bitter.
- Blend the mixture before serving. When you're ready to serve your tejuino drink, we recommend blending the fermented mix with water for an ultra-smooth texture.
- Serve with lime sorbet. If you want to add some serious flavor, serve your tejuino drink with nieve de limón.
🍴 Tasting notes
We love both the taste and rich history of tejuino, and we hope you do too. It's:
If you try this tejuino recipe, please rate it and leave us a comment below! Want to stay up-to-date with new recipes? Subscribe to our newsletter or connect with Broke Bank Vegan on social media. Happy eating!
- Large stockpot
- Pitcher or mason jar
- Cheesecloth or tea towel
- 2 cups masa harina ($0.25)
- 1 ½ cups warm water ($0.01)
- ¼ teaspoon salt ($0.01)
- 2 cups water for blending ($0.01)
- 16 ounces piloncillo ($0.79)
- 4 cups water ($0.01)
- 2 limes ($0.24)
Masa & syrup
- First, make the masa by whisking the salt and masa harina together, then add in the warm water while kneading it to form a dough ball. Let the dough rest covered with a tea towel while you prepare the syrup.
- In a large saucepan, bring piloncillo and 4 cups of water to simmer for 6-7 minutes, or until the sugar has dissolved. Turn the heat down to low.
- Next, add ½ the masa to a blender with 1 cup of water. Mix until smooth. Transfer to the pot of piloncillo syrup while stirring, and repeat this process with the second ½ of the masa.
- Cook the mixture over medium or just over medium for 10-15 minutes, or until thickened. Remove the pot from heat and let it cool for about 5 minutes, then squeeze in the juice from 2 limes and combine well.
- Cover the pot (or transfer to a glass/clay container) with a breathable tea towel or cheesecloth. Keep the container in a dry, clean area for up to 2-4 days to ferment.
- When it is done fermenting, blend the mixture in batches with ~½ cup water in each batch (or enough to move your blender). Transfer to a large pot or container ~⅔ full of ice.
- Per cup: add a pinch of salt, the juice from ½ a lime, and ice to the top of the cup. Fill the rest of the cup with tejuino, then mix it back and forth a few times with another cup to combine.
- Optional: add a scoop of lime sorbet (nieve de limón) or shaved ice on top. Happy drinking!
- For more detailed instructions on making masa, visit our corn tortilla post.
- If you don't have a high-speed blender, you can strain the blended masa into the pot of syrup for a smoother texture.
- Optional ingredients are not reflected in the price or calories of our recipes.
- We calculate nutritional information for our recipes with Cronometer.
- Recipe cost calculations are based on ingredients local to us and may vary from recipe-to-recipe.
- All prices are in USD.
♻️ Similar recipes
For more tasty drink ideas, check out our:
- Champurrado to try a chocolatey corn-based drink that's creamy, delicious, and comforting.
- Atole de guayaba for another version of atole made with the addition of sweet, tropical, and fruity guavas!
- Horchata if you love all things creamy, refreshing, and cinnamon-spiced wrapped up in an agua fresca.
- Tamarindo drink for a tart, tangy, and bold flavored agua fresca that is perfect to cool you off in the summer heat.
If your tejuino mixture looks coagulated, that's completely normal during the resting period. Mixing it with water and blending it before serving is the best way to smooth everything out.
Because tejuino ferments for a very little amount of time, it has an extremely low alcohol content (similar to kombucha).
Because tejuino is meant to be fermented, we recommend waiting at least 2 days before serving it. This allows fermentation to happen and the flavors to deepen. But if you don't have time to wait, it's perfectly safe to drink whenever (it just won't be tejuino).
Traditionally, tejuino is fermented in a clay pot. However, glass, stainless steel, or ceramic work as well.